EARN IT Act Advances In Senate, Poses New Threat To Sex Workers

LOS ANGELES—The United States Senate Judiciary Committee gave a unanimous thumbs-up Thursday to the “Eliminating Abuse and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technology Act,” better known as the EARN IT Act, which despite including new amendments that considerably dilute the proposed law’s effects, still poses a threat to online communication among sex workers, and LGBTQ Americans. EARN IT, in its original form, would have largely overturned Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the 1996 law that allows for free speech on the internet by shielding platforms from liability for content published by third parties. The idea behind EARN IT was to force online platforms to “earn” liability protection by following vaguely defined “best practices” with regard to “online child sexual exploitation.” But while the amended bill passed by the Judiciary Committee encourages platforms to follow those “best practices,” it includes no penalty for mot doing so, according to an analysis by TechDirt. But the amended bill nonetheless “replaces one set of problems with another by opening the door to an unpredictable and inconsistent set of standards,” according to Internet Association General Counsel Mike Lemon.  For sex workers, this means that the online networks they often form to communicate about safety practices, warn of potentially dangerous clients, and link up with social and health services. The original version of the bill would have decimated those networks by allowing law enforcement to eavesdrop on private, online conversations, even those using end-to-end encryption.  The amendment filed by committee Chair Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, appear to alleviate some of those concerns, taking out the “back door” for law enforcement to monitor online communications. Another amendment filed by Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy specifically excluded encryption from the lost of “best practice” violations that could work against an online platform. But not all critics were satisfied, saying that the bill still takes aim at Section 230, and throws the responsibility for enforcing the “best practices” to individual states, according to a report by The Verge.  “This bill could irrevocably harm the very free speech protections that enable the internet to be the most powerful communications tool in history and to serve as a primary means of commerce for countless American small business,” Americans For Prosperity tech policy analyst Billy Easley told the site. The stated goal of EARN IT is to force the removal of child sexual images from the internet. But according to Association of Legal Aid Attorneys President Jared Trujillo, existing laws already allow law enforcement to combat online child exploitation. “EARN IT would give the Trump Administration a sledge hammer to dismantle free digital speech and privacy as we know it, while endangering countless LGBTQ+ humans,” Trujillo wrote for the site Common Dreams.  Photo By U.S. Customs and Border Protection / Wikimedia Commons Public Domain 

written by: Lawrence Avery

source: EARN IT Act Advances In Senate, Poses New Threat To Sex Workers | AVN